The Kansas Series of paintings that I am embarking on are modelled upon satellite photos of census tracts of farming land in Kansas. The distinctive circles in these grids are formed by pivot irrigation.
These photographs resemble methods of abstraction that I have deployed in previous paintings but also feed into a particular set of American modernist techniques. One of these is the grid. Notably imported into America during the war years by Piet Mondrian with Broadway Boogie Woogie and similar works.
The grid is more usually considered as a key aspect of US city planning, but what the Kansas tracts reveal is to what extent the rural landscape of America is also informed by the grid. Which brings us to the 70s Land Art movement and Robert Smithson, whose theoretical consideration of the romantic sublime in the landscape countered the 19th Century aesthetic imagining of nature with an anti-sublime that foregrounded the artificiality of landscape and its industrialisation.
Parallel with Smithson and his concern with landscape, in the portraits of Chuck Close we see the human face broken down into modular units, like myriad tiny abstracts sharing the same canvas. While it is not one of his gridded paintings, Close is also well-known for his near-photographic realist depiction of the composer Philip Glass whose composition also echoes this ethic of the grid in American modernism.
“We’re not in Kansas anymore” says Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, when actually it is impossible to escape Kansas. The Wichita Lineman in Jimmy Webb’s hit single, best known from its Glen Campbell interpretation, hopes to take a small vacation, but as we know Kansas is actually eternal: he’s always still on the line.
Hope you enjoy this series as it develops.